All posts by David

Saving money on shipping – one of our biggest expenses

One of the biggest expenses that we have in our business is shipping. Between the boxes, the packing material, and the postage, a lot of our profits were leaving before we even saw them. I have learned a lot of ways to make things cheaper since we started buying bubbles and boxes at Walmart and shipping at the desk at the Post Office.

The first thing that I usually like to tell people about when I learn that they sell things from their home is Stamps.com. I was very frustrated getting started in this business because I was spending a fortune on shipping. I tried comparing UPS to USPS, but it seemed like the Post Office was cheaper. While I was researching ways to save money on shipping, I found Stamps.com. I was immediately impressed. The thing that I enjoy the most is the free delivery confirmation. Each time I sell something on Amazon or Ebay, I had to pay for delivery confirmation. At $0.85 a piece, it was cutting into our profits quite a bit. We sell on average right now between 5-15 orders per day. That was $4.25 to $12.75 pr day in delivery confirmation fees alone. When we learned that Stamps.com was $15.99 a month, we knew that the cost was more than paid for by the delivery confirmation fees alone!

They also give you a discount on the price that you pay from shipping at the front counter at the Post Office. I have not run specific numbers to share, but I do know that the rate is significantly cheaper.

When I signed up, they gave me the option of a free 5lb shipping scale, or I could pay 25$ for a scale that could weigh up to 25lbs. I chose the larger scale, as I ship out Xbox 360’s and PS3 consoles. I recommend that if you are sourcing things at thrift stores and yard sales like we do, that you go for the larger scale. They have a four week free trial, and give you 5$ to start in free postage. You also get vouchers for $20 in free postage for use after your trial period ends.

The scale was very easy to setup, installed the software and plugged in the USB. We started by printing 4 labels to a page, and taping them onto our packages. It is a convenient way to start. Once we had gotten a little money back from starting out, we invested in a DYMO Label Writer 450 Twin Turbo label printer, 71 Labels Per Minute, Black/Silver (1752266)
printer. With their 3-part labels, it makes it very fast and convenient to print the labels with the tracking information at home.

The software allows you to do a lot of things that reduce the amount of time that we spend packing and shipping. You can buy your insurance, change your delivery options, and customize your return address. One of the best things about it is that you can perform batch imports. What that means is that you can link your Amazon and Ebay accounts directly to Stamps.com, and they will import all of your orders at once. You pack the item, place it on the scale, and click the weigh button. Then it calculates the amount of shipping that is required, allows you to choose the shipping option that is best for you, and even allows you to hide the amount of shipping that you paid! Once all of the items are weighed, click print and all the labels come out at once. Then you can print a single form, called a batch form. The Post Office scans this form, counts your packages to make sure that they are all there, and you are done!

I know this sounds a little like a commercial, but this service has saved us hundreds of dollars this year alone. There are a few things that could use some improvement.

Sometimes the batch form does not print. Not sure why, but that means that you need to have every item scanned individually at the post office. Not a huge deal, but kind of annoying.

Some addresses won’t play nice with the software. Again, it doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it can be frustrating.

Overall, I think that using this service is one of the smartest things that we have done so far as far as saving us money on our costs. I encourage everyone that is doing this business to at least use the trial period. If you ship more than 18 orders a month, you will break even on the confirmation costs alone. The discount on the postage is pure profit! Not to mention the time that you save. In my opinion, scaling is very important. Scaling is the ability to handle an increase in orders. The more orders you can handle quickly and efficiently, the more time you spend managing your business instead of it managing you. Hope you enjoyed the tips. Let me know what you think of this article or anything else you would like to know about. Mail us!

Instructions are helpful

Today as I was browsing the competitions pricing on some of my higher value items, I realized that they were offering a service that was quick, easy, and added value to the customer. Naturally, those are all things that I would like to offer as well! I found a site, called safemanuals.com where you can download manuals for a wide variety of items. For example, I downloaded a very nice pdf file of the instructions for our Kota the Dinosaur. Since I only learned that you can press down on his butt to make stomping sounds yesterday after watching a video on him, I figured that the instructions would be very helpful for someone else. I added the printed and emailed version to our listing. Any time that you can add extra value for the customer, for little or no time or cost, it becomes a win-win situation. Thank you guys at safemanuals.com. You can also use the free tech manuals that they provide in order to troubleshoot a product, or learn more about it.  Information is power, and they are offering it for free.

How to make WordPress pages that show blog posts by category

First, it is important to understand that “posts” and “pages” are two different things

Pages are fixed information that stays the same.  For example, your contact me page, or your home page.
Posts are blog entries (basically)
When you create a custom menu, you can ask for a Page to be created (wordpress does this behind the scenes) that shows all of the posts that are in a specific category.
This is how to create those specialized pages.
First you need to decide on your site structure.  What types of information are you going to offer?  Just like when you build a house (or anything else) having an overall picture of how this is going to work and setting it up at the beginning is easier than making changes mid-stream.
I started with sketching the basic things I wanted to cover in a menu format across the top of a spreadsheet, and listing the type of content that it would include.  Type sof content include static pages (a page you make and then edit rarely), blog posts by category, hyperlinks, pictures, etc.
It is not important at this point to get it perfect, this is jsut to get you started.  Here is my (VERY) rough draft.
 
My Main Menu
                     
                       
ABOUT US CONTACT US Getting Started LESSONS LEARNED REPAIRS TOOLS SUPPLIERS EXPERIMENTS USEFUL SITES FAQ CHECK OUT OUR STORE! making website help
Page page sub-categories sub-categories sub-categories sub-categories sub-categories sub-categories hyperlinks   hyperlink with current offerings  
    setting up your amazon account shipping xbox seller products          
    setting up your ebay account packaging playstation repair tools          
    buying the supplies that make life easier cleaning miscellaneous inventory            
    setting up your office pricing
 
 
             
 
Log in to your wordpress account as an administrator
Under your “POSTS” setting, select categories
You only need to create categories for the items that you are going to have blog posts show up in.  We will create any static pages later.
Create a category for each title heading that you are going to have.  You can also have sub-categories.  You can nest these, so that if they click the main header, it will show all posts.  If you click the sub-header, it will only show ones in that specific category.  First I made all the main categories.  I changed a few of them, like making website help into wordpress.  I realized that some of the items (Like the getting started sub-categories) would be better as pages than posts.  I also realized that I needed another section called “Guides” for areas where I would put step-by-step instructions like this one.  For my sub-categories, I made the slug (internet address or URL version of the name) the name of the sub-category followed by the name of the main category.  For example, this post will be under “wordpress_guides”.  You can follow any naming method you would like, and can change them at any time.  I also created a category called “Mindset” for general articles that I think are important, but not directly related to instruction.  Once you have your categories and sub-categories the way you would like them.  Remember that you can always change this structure later (and I am almost sure you will), so it is important just to get started.  Don’t spend a lot of time trying ot get it perfect.  You can change it.
 
Now click on the appearance tab on the left, and select “Menus”.
You can create different menus, so that you can change them when you want.  Many themes also allow multiple menus to be displayed at the same time.  Once you have created a menu, all you have to do is select the pages, and the categories that you want displayed on your menu.  You can click and drag them to the appropriate level, so that they are displayed in the order that you want.  If you put an item on there that you do not want, simply click the drop-down menu on that category or page and click remove.  To nest categories, drag them on top of each other.  Make sure that the shadow is indented before releasing.  Try to organize things in logical ways that people would look for the information.  Remember, ease of use is much more important than being very fancy.  In order to rearrange the sub-items in a menu, click and drop them on the main heading with the one on the bottom of the list being first.  In other words, everytime you drop a sub-heading on top of a heading, it moves to the top of the list.  That is it!
 
Now, everytime that you warite a post under the appropriate actegory, it will show up on the page that you want it to.  Any questions, please contact us.  I am not an expert, but I do enjoy trying to help people.  I would like to give credit to this page http://en.support.wordpress.com/menus/, as it helped me to figure it out.  There are many more things you can do with your menus, but this page was specifically about getting pages with blog posts to show up the way you want it to.  For further help, refer to the hyperlink above.
 
One of the other things that I did was to add a hyperlink to our store to the menu.  Under “custom Links”, just type in the URL (web address) that you want to add, then the label you want displayed.  Click “add to menu”, and you can move it around like any other label.  Have fun with it!

General rules for making your passion your life.

I have a daughter that loves painting.  She was talking to me a while ago about two things.  She was talking about trying to find a job, and about her painting.  I was kind of confused as to why she would want a job doing something that she doesn’t really enjoy, to pay for something she did.  I told her to make her painting her job, and she asked me how to do that.  This is what I told her, and it is the general steps that I think you can follow for any passion.  This is the slower approach, one that you want to start in your spare time. 

1)  Read some books.  Find the 4-5 most popular books on your subject.  Her subject is painting, which is very broad.  I recommended that she find a smaller area to focus on.  She was talking about using broken glass in her art, which I thought would be perfect.  The trick is to find an area that people care about, that can be found with one or two search words.  What you are looking for is a “niche”.  A niche is a smaller section of a larger topic.  If you focus on all of art for example, it is a huge market.  If you focus on art techniques using broken glass though, that is a much smaller niche.  If you can’t find things on your particular niche, great!  That means that there is something out there that you can be the main expert on.  Try articles and blogs instead.

2) Talk to some of the leaders in your area of expertise.  They can be the authors of the books, or people that already run successful websites on similar topics.  Ask them what they think is most important.

3) Find some groups, and get involved.  Facebook, Meetup, Craigslist, etc. are all great ways to find people that share the same interests and hobbies.  This will also help you to figure out what the hot topics are right now.

4) Write an ebook (optional).  If you have read all of those books and forum posts, and talked to a few leaders in your field, you know more about your subject than most of the people that engage in it.  Surprisingly few people take the time to master a subject.  Put what you have learned into an ebook, and place it on Amazon.com.  You can do this in less that a day.  There are several great ebooks by Ryan Deiss on Amazon that teach you how to make and publish ebooks.  This step is recommended if you need some fast income.

5) Start a website.  Using the things you have learned, post up answers to questions that people have.  Write down all of the things you have learned, and post up your experiences using the techniques.  Use your participation in the forums as a starting place for your customer base.

6) Start a newsletter and start collecting names of people that are interested in what you have to say.  These are the people that you will work with to achieve success for both of you.

7) Now that you have a loyal fan base, the proper knowledge, and the idea that helping people do what you love is what you want to do, you can start monetizing.  Some ideas include offering ebooks/pamphlets, seminars, selling art supplies directly, using affiliate products, selling your own art work(like on Etsey, Facebook, Ebay, Amazon…etc.), and pretty much anything else that you can think of.  What about weekend retreates where you all get together and try new techniques?  What about a series of classes teaching other people how to become the experts in their areas of the art world?  Google adwords is an excellent program that will place small ads on your site, and then pay you for the clicks that are generated.  The point is, when you know what your customers need and want, the monetization part becomes easy.

This is a basic guideline.  I would like to give special thanks to Timothy Ferriss, author of “The Four-Hour Work Week”, and to Ryan Deiss, an expert on ebook development and marketing.  Also the good people at SiteBuild-It, whose philosophy of helping others turn their passions into their jobs I fully agree with. Last, but not least a special “Thanks” goes out to my talented daughter, Felicia Armstrong, who inspired the mindset I was in to write this article.

Why have your own website?

Let me start this by saying that I am not a website developer.  I have a basic understanding of how webpages, search engines, RSS feeds, newsletters, etc. work.  I know there are millions and millions of web pages out there.  So why should you make one?  There are several reasons.

1)  Organization.  It gives you a place to keep notes.  As you learn, you come across questions.  I come up with at least 3-4 questions per day.  A website gives you a place to keep notes on the problems that you have come across.  This helps you, and also helps anyone else that has the same problems.  The world is complex, and there are thousands of things to learn.  Instead of having to remember each and every little thing I ever read, I can put them here.  If you had the question, someone else did too.

2)  Network.  It allows you to build a customer base.  When people are interested in the same things, it becomes easier to build a relationship with them.  Whatever you are going to become an expert in, there will be someone that needs your expertise.  Don’t be afraid to share.  When you have something of value, these people that trust your expertise will become your first customers.  It also allows you to get in touch with the people that you need to learn from.  Other people have made progress in your direction, join your paths to theirs.

3)  Encouragement.  It allows you to see progress.  When you get stuck on a problem, or feel as if you are not contributing anything, you can look back at your website.  You can see that you have overcome many problems in the past, and this one is no different.

4)  Income.  It will become a source of revenue for you.  Your articles over time will become useful.  This will allow you to create newsletters, podcasts, seminars, ebooks, and anything else that you find your followers need.  Just remember to offer something of value.  I kept thinking that I couldn’t create a site to help people succeed in giving themselves freedom.  There are thousands of these sites, why bother making one more?  The answer is that there are always new people learning about a subject.  Just because something is obvious to you, or how to find that information is obvious to you, doesn’t mean that it is to everyone.  Help spread your message.

5)  Image.  Having a website gives you an image of respectability.  People know that you are not messing around.  When people come to your site, the number of people that visit you is not posted on your headline.  All they see is that you have a website, and that you have devoted some time and effort at becoming great at whatever it is you want to do.  People respect devotion.

6)  Global presence.  If you have a local business, it is difficult to spread your message wide and far.  Think of it this way.  If one out of a thousand people cares about what you have to say, wouldn’t you rather have 100,000 people see it than just 2,000 people?  On the web, borders get erased.  True value, rather than proximity, is what people judge on.

I don’t think it is 100% necessary to have a website to achieve success.  However, to establish multiple streams of income, a website is important.  To be seen as an expert in your field, it is important to have a web presence.  The formula for success is to identify a need, develop a solution, and fill that need.  It is much harder for your solutions to get out to the rest of the world, if you don’t have a place to put them.

Follow your passion to wealth, or follow your wealth to passion.

One of the amazing things about striving to change things, is that you feel like you are onto something.  Like maybe the average man has blinders on, and you have been freed to see that life doesn’t have to be mediocre.  You don’t have to work in jobs that are ok, or good enough.  That you can find something that you truly enjoy, something that makes you happy, and choose to live your life doing that.  If you take a second and look at some of the experts out there, you can see that they are very specialized.  I was watching an episode of Pawn Stars the other day, or Storage Wars, can’t remember which.  What I do remember is that they had to consult an expert on an item.  This expert specialized in Elvis Presley memorabilia, from a very specific period in Elvis’s life.  I remember thinking “Wow, you can’t get much more specialized than that!”.  What was important was that he found something he truly liked, and made his passion his job.  If you think that your passion can’t be your way of making money, then don’t make your job your only way to make money!  Utilize leverage and knowledge to make money, then use your free time and newly freed resources to do whatever you want!  There are millions of people out there willing to do things for the minimum wage.  There are people that are content delivering your products, building your widgets, and advertising for you.  Let them.  Focus your time and effort on the things that you care about, and let other people that are willing to settle for less help you.  Just remember, you always want to make win-win solutions.  If you can employ other people, and help them provide for their families, that is a great thing.  Don’t take advatage of other people, just because they still have their blinders on.  Help them to achieve the things that they want to do with their life.

Fundamental ideas.

There are some fundamental ideas that I believe have shifted the way that I look at work.

1)  You must provide something of value.

People are willing to pay for the things that they find useful, or that they enjoy.  If I build something that takes 10 minutes or two years to produce the same item, it makes no difference to them.  Productivity, not time spent, is the important factor.

2)  It is best to have multiple streams of income.

What happens when the software system you are using crashes?  When all of the people that are interested in your product already own it?  What about a shift in the general economy, or some type of true casualty?  It is important to have multiple ways to make a living.  If you have a traditional job, and that emplyer decides they don’t want to pay you anymore, then you have no resources to fall back on.  People save and invest, in order to have a cushion.  Why not make your abilities your cushion?  Learning the right skill sets is way more important than having the right amount of money in the bank.

3)  Physical and financial freedom are important to me, and within my reach.

With the way that the world is connected now, there is very little reason for my personal body to be limited to a specific location.  If I want to see something, take a picture.  If I want to call someone, pick up a phone.  If I need to get something from point A to point B, there are people willing to do that, while I can focus on making sure the right things are moving in the right directions.

4)  Passion and interest are the most determining factors.  Do what you love, find what other people love.

People that are collectors will pay 100’s of thousands of dollars for unique items that are significant to them.  People that need to learn the proper skills, will pay a large amount of money to someone that can teach them those skills.  Even everyday normal people will pay money for things that make their lives easier, more fun, or more exciting.  If you care about something, it has worth for you.  It is actually the only thing that determines an items worth, is how much you can get someone to care about it.

There are some ideas that are important to relinquish.

1)  All the good ideas are taken.

This will never happen, ever.  If you discover someone else has taken or used the idea that you had, then your next task is to improve upon their idea.  Find areas of your life that don’t run as smoothly as you would like.  Then find ways to make them more enjoyable,  Trust that other people have the same problems, and would love for someone to solve them.

2)  It is too hard.

Trusting your well-being and your families well being to the mercies of other people is truly hard.  You have learned some skill set to perform your current job, something that people from outside of your work area might think is difficult.  why not learn skill sets that make all jobs easier?  Learning how to learn, learning how to question, and learning how to research are all the skills you will ever need.

3)  Everyone already knows these things, or offers these products. 

There is room for competition.  No matter how big the competition, there is always someone that can make a better, cheaper, faster, more bells and whistles, more simplified, easier, larger, or smaller version.  Think of the biggest companies in the world.  Now realize there is always at least two, and many more generics/knockoffs etc.

4)  If it was so easy to achieve independence, everyone would do it.

This is the issue that I had to face.  I kept thinking if it truly is easy to step off of the beaten path, then everyone would do it.  That is just not true.  It’s like saying that everyone is capable of leaving a bad relationship.  Or that everyone keeps searching until they find the job that makes them happy.  Unfortunately, most people are content with keeping their heads down and following the pack.  In order to be truly free, you have to look for the people that make their own trails, and learn from them.  All true progress is made from not following the majority, but working with and learning from the innovaters. 

If you can absorb these ideas, then you are off to a good start.  Recognize that almost anything can be taught.  The skills that you manage to build determine whether you become someone that makes their own destiny, or follows someone elses dreams.

Welcome!

Welcome to our site!

We created this site to help others by sharing what we have learned in hopes of helping others like yourself, work for themselves.

We currently own a store on Amazon, and realized that there are a lot of things that we have learned that can be useful to so many people trying to make some money or start up a small business themselves.

In these pages, you will find tools, tips, and useful information that can hopefully help you and your business grow. We have posted some of our own personal stories and profitable finds that we thought you may enjoy reading. There is also a link to our online store.

We encourage you to flip through our pages. Feel free to pull whatever information that may be useful to you and use it to apply to your business and lifestyle. We welcome and appreciate any feedback or comments you may have that would be helpful to improve our site or business.

We hope you enjoy learning about us and what we do. Feel free to also drop us a line at amusingtreasures@gmail.com.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays from us here at ~ Amusing Treasures